Miners, the men who deal & skimpies

[miningmx.com] — IT’S that time again: the annual Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum being held in the West Australian gold mining town of Kalgoorlie about 700km east of Perth.

Best way to describe it is an Australian version of Boksburg when ERPM was still a gold mine to be reckoned with although the architecture is better – and so are the barmaids known locally as “skimpies’ for reasons I will not go into.

The buildings in the centre of Kalgoorlie are very similar to some of the historic buildings found around Kimberley: double story structures with the lovely, decorative wrought iron work on the first floor verandahs.

Striking feature yet again is the South African presence here both on the mining side and also amongst the analysts and fund managers attending the sell-out conference where you need to book your accommodation a year in advance.

Demand for beds is such that the local hotels cannot cope and some delegates end up driving in from the town of Coolgardie which is about 70km away. Others rent campervans and drive through from Perth to stay at the local camping sites.

The conference kicked off on Sunday afternoon with a visit to the nearby Kambalda nickel operations of diversified minerals group Consolidated Minerals (Consmin) which may be ASX-listed but it’s being run by an ex-Anglo Platinum management team.

The point was driven home by former Australian rugby player turned stockbroker Nick Farr-Jones. He was the speaker at the dinner following the mine visit and he began by referring to “all the jaapie accents’ he detected when met at the airport.

His ears did not deceive him. The MD of Consmin is Rod Baxter who is a former projects director for Anglo American and divisional director at AngloPlat.

Baxter was recruited to Consmin in February 2005 as GM group services. He took over as MD from July 1. Following his promotion Baxter has been replaced as GM group services by former AngloPlat manager Garth Higgo while another former AngloPlat executive – Alistair Croll – has been brought in as Consmin’s chief operating officer.

There are plenty of familiar faces belonging to former South Africans amongst the delegates – in fact, the chance to catch up with them is one of the great benefits of attending a conference like this.

Prominent amongst the familiar faces spotted so far are former top-ranked JSE platinum analysts Kevin Kartun – now involved in media relations in Sydney – and Dave Russell now working as an analyst for Investec Bank in Perth.

Former top-ranked South African gold analyst Richard Rossiter is also here passing out new business cards which now identify him as the director, mining & metals for Standard Bank in Sydney.

For those with longer memories one of the Diggers’ stalwarts is former JSE analyst “Jesse’ James now working for a Canadian investment institution.

So here we go – three days of presentations, networking and putting livers on the line all in the cause of gathering information.

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My favourite Australian delegate – who shall remain anonymous – is fond of winding me up about my “jaapie’ accent inquiring constantly about my “grudge’ – as in “garage’ – go figure.

It’s a small price to pay for the information gleaned at this conference which rates as one of the very best international mining get-togethers. But I heard in the bar at the Palace last night that he’s looking at a possible mining venture in South Africa. Me – hold a grudge? Never!